That’s three titles for a town and two crowns for its king.
With a season, a playoffs, an NBA Finals and a Game 7 that will echo for years to come, the Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena to win its second NBA championship in a row and cap the most exciting two weeks in South Florida sports history.
LeBron James played stunning, brilliant basketball to earn the NBA Finals MVP for the second straight year and Dwyane Wade, who played throughout the playoffs despite knee problems, saved his best for the final game of a grueling postseason. James finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, going 12 of 23 from the field, 5 of 10 from three-point range and 8 of 8 from the free-throw line. Wade had 23 points, 10 rebounds and an assist and made 11 of his 21 attempts.
“This team is amazing, and the vision that I had when I decided to come here is all coming true,” James said. “Through adversity, through everything we’ve been through, we’ve been able to persevere and to win back-to-back championships. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m happy to be part of such a first-class organization.”
FINALLY, BACK TO BACK WINS
To repeat as champion, the Heat had to win back-to-back games for the first time since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Miami won Game 7s in back-to-back series, providing South Florida with one of the most exhilarating rides professional sports can offer.
It was the Heat’s first Finals Game 7 in the 25-year history of the franchise and it was a classic. The teams seemed to swap the lead on nearly every possession throughout the third quarter, and the final period provided nail-biting drama until the final minute. Game 7 was tied 11 times and the lead changed hands seven times.
“This was a tremendous game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It wouldn’t end any other way.”
James, who scored 22 points in the second half, nailed a 19-foot jumper with 27.9 seconds left to give the Heat a 92-88 lead and then, to seal the championship, stole a pass from Manu Ginobili after a timeout. He then made a pair of free throws to kick-start the celebration.
James scored 69 points in the final two games of the Finals and here’s a jaw-dropping statistic: Throughout his career, James has averaged 34.4 points in five career Game 7s.
“He made enough shots to make us change our defense over and over again,” Heat center Tim Duncan said. “We just couldn’t find a way to stop him.”
CHALMERS HITS KEY THREE
Mario Chalmers banked in a long three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to give the Heat a 72-71 lead. From there, the madness began. Consider this for a measure of how crazy Game 7 truly was: Only five players scored for the Heat, yet James, Wade, Chalmers and Shane Battier outscored the Spurs 92-88.
“Shane ain’t hit a shot since I don’t know when and tonight he was unconscious,” Wade said.
Battier, who redeemed himself 1,000 times over for his performance in the Eastern Conference finals, scored 18 points, going 6 of 8 from three-point range. Chalmers had 14 points, and Chris Andersen had three points to round out the uneven scoring. Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Chris Bosh shot 0 of 14 combined.